Sunday, January 4, 2009

Beautiful hair, Goree Island and the Episcopal Church

I have a love-hate relationship with my hair. I am always trying to do something new - translation - I have been trying to grow "natural" hair or "dreads" for years. Whenever I think I am close to the final product, I grow impatient and run to the beauty shop so I can get curls again.

Today I went to church services and was greeted by a beautiful Jamaican woman who commented on how much she preferred my hair in it's present (read "processed") state, versus the natural state that I had been sporting for several months, while desperately trying to get my hair to behave and grow into those beautiful twists that so many of my African sisters seem to do effortlessly to their hair here in New York.

I commented to the woman that I was ambivalent with my hair, and much preferred it in its natural state, since I am from Africa originally and my hair should reflect my heritage. She asked me pointedly if I had no proof that I am African. I told her I didn't need proof - I simply knew.

In October, my mother took a historical trip to Senegal to visit my sister who works for the U.N. The trip was therapeutic, filled with good food, sunshine and all manner of amazing indigenous experiences orchestrated by my sweet sister. As we looked through the digital slide show on mum's camera upon her return, I marveled at the beauty of the land, culture and people. At one point, the camera showed a hollow looking building - it was Goree Island - I had never heard of this island, growing up in post-colonial England and learning little of my African heritage, but the picture haunted me and my eyes filled up with tears - instinctively, I knew that there was great pain associated with the place.

I don't need anyone to prove to me that I am from Africa - I know where my roots are from, my curly processed hair notwithstanding.

Today, I made the decision to join the Episcopal church again - it is going to be a transitional time for me. I need to fellowship and take communion and feed my soul - attending services does that for me. The congregation where I currently attend is not as diverse as I need it to be, but it will serve its purpose for the time being. I have my eye on another church when the time is right: The UCC Church at Chatterton......a place where everyone is welcome regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status. Now THAT's my kind of church.

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